[#pictureLent] February 17: BAPTISM

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By Christopher Jones
Church of the Redeemer (Anglican)
Toronto, Ontario, Canada

First, read 1 Peter 3:18-22

Each Sunday during Lent, my parish practices asperges. The clergy enter in silence, the congregation settles into a few moments of silent reflection. When the time is right, the presiding celebrant stands and leads the congregation in prayers of repentance at the baptismal font. Then the basin is removed from the stone font, the celebrant walks up and down each aisle, and each and every person in the church is showered with water flung from a branch of greenery.

By the time the water makes it to my skin, it has gone cold. It’s a bit jarring, particularly if you are so concentrated on singing the hymn that you don’t realize the basin has crept up behind you – which is often my case. But in that moment of slight shock, I can’t help but reflect on that moment – now more than 20 years ago – when I entered the waters of baptism, and was welcomed into the Christian community.

I count myself fortunate to remember my baptism. I was 12 years old at the time, but I remember nearly every detail. I remember the water, the people, the place, the joy.

At the time, I think I assumed everything would be different after that moment. I thought that once I had received the waters of baptism, faith would come easily, that I would wash away the world, leaving only my new life in Jesus Christ. 

The truth of the matter is, once the afterglow wore off, I was presented with the reality that life after baptism isn’t so much different than life before. Now that I’m older, I find myself confronted even more with the suffering of the world around me, the temptations that life in the 21st century brings with it, and I realize just how difficult life after baptism can be. 

The words of 1 Peter were written to a community enduring far more serious suffering and persecution than I do on a day-to-day basis, but I find them just as relevant today as they were in the early days of the Church: baptism is “not … a removal of dirt from the body, but … an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.”

My baptism didn’t wash away the world. While it marked a definitive moment in my life in Christ, it did not magically make daily life easier or better. When I reflect on it now, I realize that baptism isn’t about washing away the obstacles we face in life. Baptism is a new beginning to be sure, but it’s a new beginning that involves work – a daily commitment to live a life of good conscience and hope in the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

For even the most steadfast Christians in my life, this is a daunting task. To renew that baptismal hope every day is hard work. The good news for us is that we are never in this baptismal life alone. We walk with God and with one another every step of the way.

Prayer: God of renewed hope, in the beginning your spirit moved across the face of the deep waters, and at our baptism showered us with your grace; bestow upon us each day a good conscience that we may live into the resurrection of your son Jesus Christ. Amen. 

Discussion/Reflection Questions:

  1. Think about your baptism, or baptisms you have been present for recently. What was that day, that moment like? How have you seen the grace of God at work in your life or the lives of others after baptism?
  2. We all make certain public commitments at our baptism*. Which baptismal promise do you find easiest? Which promise do you find most challenging to keep? How do you appeal to God when you find your baptismal life difficult?
  3. How have you sought support from others in fulfilling your baptismal promises? How have others supported you?

* For examples:
https://www.umcdiscipleship.org/resources/the-baptismal-covenant-i
https://www.bcponline.org/Baptism/holybaptism.html#covenant